Part 7 out of 7
"Yes; that's why I hate it."
"Don't speak of it now. I've a little time. Coming away was a
complication, but what will going back be?"
"You must remember, after all, that he won't make you a scene!"
said Henrietta with much intention.
"He will, though," Isabel answered gravely. "It won't be the
scene of a moment; it will be a scene of the rest of my life."
For some minutes the two women sat and considered this remainder,
and then Miss Stackpole, to change the subject, as Isabel had
requested, announced abruptly: "I've been to stay with Lady
"Ah, the invitation came at last!"
"Yes; it took five years. But this time she wanted to see me."
"It was more natural than I think you know," said Henrietta, who
fixed her eyes on a distant point. And then she added, turning
suddenly: "Isabel Archer, I beg your pardon. You don't know why?
Because I criticised you, and yet I've gone further than you. Mr.
Osmond, at least, was born on the other side!"
It was a moment before Isabel grasped her meaning; this sense was
so modestly, or at least so ingeniously, veiled. Isabel's mind
was not possessed at present with the comicality of things; but
she greeted with a quick laugh the image that her companion had
raised. She immediately recovered herself, however, and with the
right excess of intensity, "Henrietta Stackpole," she asked, "are
you going to give up your country?"
"Yes, my poor Isabel, I am. I won't pretend to deny it; I look
the fact: in the face. I'm going to marry Mr. Bantling and locate
right here in London."
"It seems very strange," said Isabel, smiling now.
"Well yes, I suppose it does. I've come to it little by little. I
think I know what I'm doing; but I don't know as I can explain."
"One can't explain one's marriage," Isabel answered. "And yours
doesn't need to be explained. Mr. Bantling isn't a riddle."
"No, he isn't a bad pun--or even a high flight of American
humour. He has a beautiful nature," Henrietta went on. "I've
studied him for many years and I see right through him. He's as
clear as the style of a good prospectus. He's not intellectual,
but he appreciates intellect. On the other hand he doesn't
exaggerate its claims. I sometimes think we do in the United
"Ah," said Isabel, "you're changed indeed! It's the first time
I've ever heard you say anything against your native land."
"I only say that we're too infatuated with mere brain-power;
that, after all, isn't a vulgar fault. But I AM changed; a woman
has to change a good deal to marry."
"I hope you'll be very happy. You will at last--over here--see
something of the inner life."
Henrietta gave a little significant sigh. "That's the key to the
mystery, I believe. I couldn't endure to be kept off. Now I've as
good a right as any one!" she added with artless elation.
Isabel was duly diverted, but there was a certain melancholy in
her view. Henrietta, after all, had confessed herself human and
feminine, Henrietta whom she had hitherto regarded as a light
keen flame, a disembodied voice. It was a disappointment to find
she had personal susceptibilities, that she was subject to common
passions, and that her intimacy with Mr. Bantling had not been
completely original. There was a want of originality in her
marrying him--there was even a kind of stupidity; and for a
moment, to Isabel's sense, the dreariness of the world took on a
deeper tinge. A little later indeed she reflected that Mr.
Bantling himself at least was original. But she didn't see how
Henrietta could give up her country. She herself had relaxed her
hold of it, but it had never been her country as it had been
Henrietta's. She presently asked her if she had enjoyed her visit
to Lady Pensil.
"Oh yes," said Henrietta, "she didn't know what to make of me."
"And was that very enjoyable?"
"Very much so, because she's supposed to be a master mind. She
thinks she knows everything; but she doesn't understand a woman
of my modern type. It would be so much easier for her if I were
only a little better or a little worse. She's so puzzled; I
believe she thinks it's my duty to go and do something immoral.
She thinks it's immoral that I should marry her brother; but,
after all, that isn't immoral enough. And she'll never understand
"She's not so intelligent as her brother then," said Isabel. "He
appears to have understood."
"Oh no, he hasn't!" cried Miss Stackpole with decision. "I really
believe that's what he wants to marry me for--just to find out
the mystery and the proportions of it. That's a fixed idea--a
kind of fascination."
"It's very good in you to humour it."
"Oh well," said Henrietta, "I've something to find out too!" And
Isabel saw that she had not renounced an allegiance, but planned
an attack. She was at last about to grapple in earnest with
Isabel also perceived, however, on the morrow, at the Paddington
Station, where she found herself, at ten o'clock, in the company
both of Miss Stackpole and Mr. Bantling, that the gentleman bore
his perplexities lightly. If he had not found out everything he
had found out at least the great point--that Miss Stackpole would
not be wanting in initiative. It was evident that in the
selection of a wife he had been on his guard against this
"Henrietta has told me, and I'm very glad," Isabel said as she
gave him her hand.
"I dare say you think it awfully odd," Mr. Bantling replied,
resting on his neat umbrella.
"Yes, I think it awfully odd."
"You can't think it so awfully odd as I do. But I've always
rather liked striking out a line," said Mr. Bantling serenely.
Isabel's arrival at Gardencourt on this second occasion was even
quieter than it had been on the first. Ralph Touchett kept but a
small household, and to the new servants Mrs. Osmond was a
stranger; so that instead of being conducted to her own apartment
she was coldly shown into the drawing-room and left to wait while
her name was carried up to her aunt. She waited a long time; Mrs.
Touchett appeared in no hurry to come to her. She grew impatient
at last; she grew nervous and scared--as scared as if the objects
about her had begun to show for conscious things, watching her
trouble with grotesque grimaces. The day was dark and cold; the
dusk was thick in the corners of the wide brown rooms. The house
was perfectly still--with a stillness that Isabel remembered; it
had filled all the place for days before the death of her uncle.
She left the drawing-room and wandered about--strolled into the
library and along the gallery of pictures, where, in the deep
silence, her footstep made an echo. Nothing was changed; she
recognised everything she had seen years before; it might have
been only yesterday she had stood there. She envied the security
of valuable "pieces" which change by no hair's breadth, only grow
in value, while their owners lose inch by inch youth, happiness,
beauty; and she became aware that she was walking about as her
aunt had done on the day she had come to see her in Albany. She
was changed enough since then--that had been the beginning. It
suddenly struck her that if her Aunt Lydia had not come that day
in just that way and found her alone, everything might have been
different. She might have had another life and she might have
been a woman more blest. She stopped in the gallery in front of a
small picture--a charming and precious Bonington--upon which her
eyes rested a long time. But she was not looking at the picture;
she was wondering whether if her aunt had not come that day in
Albany she would have married Caspar Goodwood.
Mrs. Touchett appeared at last, just after Isabel had returned to
the big uninhabited drawing-room. She looked a good deal older,
but her eye was as bright as ever and her head as erect; her thin
lips seemed a repository of latent meanings. She wore a little
grey dress of the most undecorated fashion, and Isabel wondered,
as she had wondered the first time, if her remarkable kinswoman
resembled more a queen-regent or the matron of a gaol. Her lips
felt very thin indeed on Isabel's hot cheek.
"I've kept you waiting because I've been sitting with Ralph,"
Mrs. Touchett said. "The nurse had gone to luncheon and I had
taken her place. He has a man who's supposed to look after him,
but the man's good for nothing; he's always looking out of the
window--as if there were anything to see! I didn't wish to move,
because Ralph seemed to be sleeping and I was afraid the sound
would disturb him. I waited till the nurse came back. I remembered
you knew the house."
"I find I know it better even than I thought; I've been walking
everywhere," Isabel answered. And then she asked if Ralph slept
"He lies with his eyes closed; he doesn't move. But I'm not sure
that it's always sleep."
"Will he see me? Can he speak to me?"
Mrs. Touchett declined the office of saying. "You can try him,"
was the limit of her extravagance. And then she offered to
conduct Isabel to her room. "I thought they had taken you there;
but it's not my house, it's Ralph's; and I don't know what they
do. They must at least have taken your luggage; I don't suppose
you've brought much. Not that I care, however. I believe they've
given you the same room you had before; when Ralph heard you were
coming he said you must have that one."
"Did he say anything else?"
"Ah, my dear, he doesn't chatter as he used!" cried Mrs. Touchett
as she preceded her niece up the staircase.
It was the same room, and something told Isabel it had not been
slept in since she occupied it. Her luggage was there and was not
voluminous; Mrs. Touchett sat down a moment with her eyes upon
it. "Is there really no hope?" our young woman asked as she stood
"None whatever. There never has been. It has not been a
"No--it has only been a beautiful one." Isabel found herself
already contradicting her aunt; she was irritated by her dryness.
"I don't know what you mean by that; there's no beauty without
health. That is a very odd dress to travel in."
Isabel glanced at her garment. "I left Rome at an hour's notice;
I took the first that came."
"Your sisters, in America, wished to know how you dress. That
seemed to be their principal interest. I wasn't able to tell them
--but they seemed to have the right idea: that you never wear
anything less than black brocade."
"They think I'm more brilliant than I am; I'm afraid to tell them
the truth," said Isabel. "Lily wrote me you had dined with her."
"She invited me four times, and I went once. After the second
time she should have let me alone. The dinner was very good; it
must have been expensive. Her husband has a very bad manner. Did
I enjoy my visit to America? Why should I have enjoyed it? I
didn't go for my pleasure."
These were interesting items, but Mrs. Touchett soon left her
niece, whom she was to meet in half an hour at the midday meal.
For this repast the two ladies faced each other at an abbreviated
table in the melancholy dining-room. Here, after a little, Isabel
saw her aunt not to be so dry as she appeared, and her old pity
for the poor woman's inexpressiveness, her want of regret, of
disappointment, came back to her. Unmistakeably she would have
found it a blessing to-day to be able to feel a defeat, a mistake,
even a shame or two. She wondered if she were not even missing
those enrichments of consciousness and privately trying--
reaching out for some aftertaste of life, dregs of the banquet;
the testimony of pain or the cold recreation of remorse. On the
other hand perhaps she was afraid; if she should begin to know
remorse at all it might take her too far. Isabel could perceive,
however, how it had come over her dimly that she had failed of
something, that she saw herself in the future as an old woman
without memories. Her little sharp face looked tragical. She told
her niece that Ralph had as yet not moved, but that he probably
would be able to see her before dinner. And then in a moment she
added that he had seen Lord Warburton the day before; an
announcement which startled Isabel a little, as it seemed an
intimation that this personage was in the neighbourhood and that
an accident might bring them together. Such an accident would not
be happy; she had not come to England to struggle again with Lord
Warburton. She none the less presently said to her aunt that he
had been very kind to Ralph; she had seen something of that in
"He has something else to think of now," Mrs. Touchett returned.
And she paused with a gaze like a gimlet.
Isabel saw she meant something, and instantly guessed what she
meant. But her reply concealed her guess; her heart beat faster
and she wished to gain a moment. "Ah yes--the House of Lords and
"He's not thinking of the Lords; he's thinking of the ladies. At
least he's thinking of one of them; he told Ralph he's engaged to
"Ah, to be married!" Isabel mildly exclaimed.
"Unless he breaks it off. He seemed to think Ralph would like to
know. Poor Ralph can't go to the wedding, though I believe it's
to take place very soon.
"And who's the young lady?"
"A member of the aristocracy; Lady Flora, Lady Felicia--
something of that sort."
"I'm very glad," Isabel said. "It must be a sudden decision."
"Sudden enough, I believe; a courtship of three weeks. It has
only just been made public."
"I'm very glad," Isabel repeated with a larger emphasis. She knew
her aunt was watching her--looking for the signs of some imputed
soreness, and the desire to prevent her companion from seeing
anything of this kind enabled her to speak in the tone of quick
satisfaction, the tone almost of relief. Mrs. Touchett of course
followed the tradition that ladies, even married ones, regard the
marriage of their old lovers as an offence to themselves.
Isabel's first care therefore was to show that however that might
be in general she was not offended now. But meanwhile, as I say,
her heart beat faster; and if she sat for some moments thoughtful
--she presently forgot Mrs. Touchett's observation--it was not
because she had lost an admirer. Her imagination had traversed
half Europe; it halted, panting, and even trembling a little, in
the city of Rome. She figured herself announcing to her husband
that Lord Warburton was to lead a bride to the altar, and she was
of course not aware how extremely wan she must have looked while
she made this intellectual effort. But at last she collected
herself and said to her aunt: "He was sure to do it some time or
Mrs. Touchett was silent; then she gave a sharp little shake of
the head. "Ah, my dear, you're beyond me!" she cried suddenly.
They went on with their luncheon in silence; Isabel felt as if
she had heard of Lord Warburton's death. She had known him only
as a suitor, and now that was all over. He was dead for poor
Pansy; by Pansy he might have lived. A servant had been hovering
about; at last Mrs. Touchett requested him to leave them alone.
She had finished her meal; she sat with her hands folded on the
edge of the table. "I should like to ask you three questions,"
she observed when the servant had gone.
"Three are a great many."
"I can't do with less; I've been thinking. They're all very good
"That's what I'm afraid of. The best questions are the worst,"
Isabel answered. Mrs. Touchett had pushed back her chair, and as
her niece left the table and walked, rather consciously, to one
of the deep windows, she felt herself followed by her eyes.
"Have you ever been sorry you didn't marry Lord Warburton?" Mrs.
Isabel shook her head slowly, but not heavily. "No, dear aunt."
"Good. I ought to tell you that I propose to believe what you
"Your believing me's an immense temptation," she declared,
"A temptation to lie? I don't recommend you to do that, for when
I'm misinformed I'm as dangerous as a poisoned rat. I don't mean
to crow over you."
"It's my husband who doesn't get on with me," said Isabel.
"I could have told him he wouldn't. I don't call that crowing
over YOU," Mrs. Touchett added. "Do you still like Serena Merle?"
she went on.
"Not as I once did. But it doesn't matter, for she's going to
"To America? She must have done something very bad."
"May I ask what it is?"
"She made a convenience of me."
"Ah," cried Mrs. Touchett, "so she did of me! She does of every
"She'll make a convenience of America," said Isabel, smiling
again and glad that her aunt's questions were over.
It was not till the evening that she was able to see Ralph. He
had been dozing all day; at least he had been lying unconscious.
The doctor was there, but after a while went away--the local
doctor, who had attended his father and whom Ralph liked. He came
three or four times a day; he was deeply interested in his
patient. Ralph had had Sir Matthew Hope, but he had got tired of
this celebrated man, to whom he had asked his mother to send word
he was now dead and was therefore without further need of medical
advice. Mrs. Touchett had simply written to Sir Matthew that her
son disliked him. On the day of Isabel's arrival Ralph gave no
sign, as I have related, for many hours; but toward evening he
raised himself and said he knew that she had come.
How he knew was not apparent, inasmuch as for fear of exciting
him no one had offered the information. Isabel came in and sat by
his bed in the dim light; there was only a shaded candle in a
corner of the room. She told the nurse she might go--she herself
would sit with him for the rest of the evening. He had opened his
eyes and recognised her, and had moved his hand, which lay
helpless beside him, so that she might take it. But he was unable
to speak; he closed his eyes again and remained perfectly still,
only keeping her hand in his own. She sat with him a long time--
till the nurse came back; but he gave no further sign. He might
have passed away while she looked at him; he was already the
figure and pattern of death. She had thought him far gone in
Rome, and this was worse; there was but one change possible now.
There was a strange tranquillity in his face; it was as still as
the lid of a box. With this he was a mere lattice of bones; when
he opened his eyes to greet her it was as if she were looking
into immeasurable space. It was not till midnight that the nurse
came back; but the hours, to Isabel, had not seemed long; it was
exactly what she had come for. If she had come simply to wait she
found ample occasion, for he lay three days in a kind of grateful
silence. He recognised her and at moments seemed to wish to
speak; but he found no voice. Then he closed his eyes again, as
if he too were waiting for something--for something that
certainly would come. He was so absolutely quiet that it seemed
to her what was coming had already arrived; and yet she never
lost the sense that they were still together. But they were not
always together; there were other hours that she passed in
wandering through the empty house and listening for a voice that
was not poor Ralph's. She had a constant fear; she thought it
possible her husband would write to her. But he remained silent,
and she only got a letter from Florence and from the Countess
Gemini. Ralph, however, spoke at last--on the evening of the
"I feel better to-night," he murmured, abruptly, in the soundless
dimness of her vigil; "I think I can say something." She sank
upon her knees beside his pillow; took his thin hand in her own;
begged him not to make an effort--not to tire himself. His face
was of necessity serious--it was incapable of the muscular play
of a smile; but its owner apparently had not lost a perception of
incongruities. "What does it matter if I'm tired when I've all
eternity to rest? There's no harm in making an effort when it's
the very last of all. Don't people always feel better just before
the end? I've often heard of that; it's what I was waiting for.
Ever since you've been here I thought it would come. I tried two
or three times; I was afraid you'd get tired of sitting there."
He spoke slowly, with painful breaks and long pauses; his voice
seemed to come from a distance. When he ceased he lay with his
face turned to Isabel and his large unwinking eyes open into her
own. "It was very good of you to come," he went on. "I thought
you would; but I wasn't sure."
"I was not sure either till I came," said Isabel.
"You've been like an angel beside my bed. You know they talk
about the angel of death. It's the most beautiful of all. You've
been like that; as if you were waiting for me."
"I was not waiting for your death; I was waiting for--for this.
This is not death, dear Ralph."
"Not for you--no. There's nothing makes us feel so much alive as
to see others die. That's the sensation of life--the sense that
we remain. I've had it--even I. But now I'm of no use but to give
it to others. With me it's all over." And then he paused. Isabel
bowed her head further, till it rested on the two hands that were
clasped upon his own. She couldn't see him now; but his far-away
voice was close to her ear. "Isabel," he went on suddenly, "I
wish it were over for you." She answered nothing; she had burst
into sobs; she remained so, with her buried face. He lay silent,
listening to her sobs; at last he gave a long groan. "Ah, what is
it you have done for me?"
"What is it you did for me?" she cried, her now extreme agitation
half smothered by her attitude. She had lost all her shame, all
wish to hide things. Now he must know; she wished him to know,
for it brought them supremely together, and he was beyond the
reach of pain. "You did something once--you know it. O Ralph,
you've been everything! What have I done for you--what can I do
to-day? I would die if you could live. But I don't wish you to
live; I would die myself, not to lose you." Her voice was as
broken as his own and full of tears and anguish.
"You won't lose me--you'll keep me. Keep me in your heart; I
shall be nearer to you than I've ever been. Dear Isabel, life is
better; for in life there's love. Death is good--but there's no
"I never thanked you--I never spoke--I never was what I should
be!" Isabel went on. She felt a passionate need to cry out and
accuse herself, to let her sorrow possess her. All her troubles,
for the moment, became single and melted together into this
present pain. "What must you have thought of me? Yet how could I
know? I never knew, and I only know to-day because there are
people less stupid than I."
"Don't mind people," said Ralph. "I think I'm glad to leave
She raised her head and her clasped hands; she seemed for a
moment to pray to him. "Is it true--is it true?" she asked.
"True that you've been stupid? Oh no," said Ralph with a sensible
intention of wit.
"That you made me rich--that all I have is yours?"
He turned away his head, and for some time said nothing. Then at
last: "Ah, don't speak of that--that was not happy." Slowly he
moved his face toward her again, and they once more saw each
other. "But for that--but for that--!" And he paused. "I believe
I ruined you," he wailed.
She was full of the sense that he was beyond the reach of pain;
he seemed already so little of this world. But even if she had
not had it she would still have spoken, for nothing mattered now
but the only knowledge that was not pure anguish--the knowledge
that they were looking at the truth together.
"He married me for the money," she said. She wished to say
everything; she was afraid he might die before she had done so.
He gazed at her a little, and for the first time his fixed eyes
lowered their lids. But he raised them in a moment, and then, "He
was greatly in love with you," he answered.
"Yes, he was in love with me. But he wouldn't have married me if
I had been poor. I don't hurt you in saying that. How can I? I
only want you to understand. I always tried to keep you from
understanding; but that's all over."
"I always understood," said Ralph.
"I thought you did, and I didn't like it. But now I like it."
"You don't hurt me--you make me very happy." And as Ralph said
this there was an extraordinary gladness in his voice. She bent
her head again, and pressed her lips to the back of his hand. "I
always understood," he continued, "though it was so strange--so
pitiful. You wanted to look at life for yourself--but you were
not allowed; you were punished for your wish. You were ground in
the very mill of the conventional!"
"Oh yes, I've been punished," Isabel sobbed.
He listened to her a little, and then continued: "Was he very bad
about your coming?"
"He made it very hard for me. But I don't care."
"It is all over then between you?"
"Oh no; I don't think anything's over."
"Are you going back to him ?" Ralph gasped.
"I don't know--I can't tell. I shall stay here as long as I may.
I don't want to think--I needn't think. I don't care for anything
but you, and that's enough for the present. It will last a little
yet. Here on my knees, with you dying in my arms, I'm happier
than I have been for a long time. And I want you to be happy--
not to think of anything sad; only to feel that I'm near you and
I love you. Why should there be pain--? In such hours as this
what have we to do with pain? That's not the deepest thing;
there's something deeper."
Ralph evidently found from moment to moment greater difficulty in
speaking; he had to wait longer to collect himself. At first he
appeared to make no response to these last words; he let a long
time elapse. Then he murmured simply: "You must stay here."
"I should like to stay--as long as seems right."
"As seems right-- as seems right?" He repeated her words. "Yes,
you think a great deal about that."
"Of course one must. You're very tired," said Isabel.
"I'm very tired. You said just now that pain's not the deepest
thing. No--no. But it's very deep. If I could stay--"
"For me you'll always be here," she softly interrupted. It was
easy to interrupt him.
But he went on, after a moment: "It passes, after all; it's
passing now. But love remains. I don't know why we should suffer
so much. Perhaps I shall find out. There are many things in life.
You're very young."
"I feel very old," said Isabel.
"You'll grow young again. That's how I see you. I don't believe--
I don't believe--" But he stopped again; his strength failed him.
She begged him to be quiet now. "We needn't speak to understand
each other," she said.
"I don't believe that such a generous mistake as yours can hurt
you for more than a little."
"Oh Ralph, I'm very happy now," she cried through her tears.
"And remember this," he continued, "that if you've been hated
you've also been loved. Ah but, Isabel--ADORED!" he just audibly
and lingeringly breathed.
"Oh my brother!" she cried with a movement of still deeper
He had told her, the first evening she ever spent at Gardencourt,
that if she should live to suffer enough she might some day see
the ghost with which the old house was duly provided. She
apparently had fulfilled the necessary condition; for the next
morning, in the cold, faint dawn, she knew that a spirit was
standing by her bed. She had lain down without undressing, it
being her belief that Ralph would not outlast the night. She had
no inclination to sleep; she was waiting, and such waiting was
wakeful. But she closed her eyes; she believed that as the night
wore on she should hear a knock at her door. She heard no knock,
but at the time the darkness began vaguely to grow grey she
started up from her pillow as abruptly as if she had received a
summons. It seemed to her for an instant that he was standing
there--a vague, hovering figure in the vagueness of the room. She
stared a moment; she saw his white face--his kind eyes; then she
saw there was nothing. She was not afraid; she was only sure. She
quitted the place and in her certainty passed through dark
corridors and down a flight of oaken steps that shone in the
vague light of a hall-window. Outside Ralph's door she stopped a
moment, listening, but she seemed to hear only the hush that
filled it. She opened the door with a hand as gentle as if she
were lifting a veil from the face of the dead, and saw Mrs.
Touchett sitting motionless and upright beside the couch of her
son, with one of his hands in her own. The doctor was on the
other side, with poor Ralph's further wrist resting in his
professional fingers. The two nurses were at the foot between
them. Mrs. Touchett took no notice of Isabel, but the doctor
looked at her very hard; then he gently placed Ralph's hand in a
proper position, close beside him. The nurse looked at her very
hard too, and no one said a word; but Isabel only looked at what
she had come to see. It was fairer than Ralph had ever been in
life, and there was a strange resemblance to the face of his
father, which, six years before, she had seen lying on the same
pillow. She went to her aunt and put her arm around her; and Mrs.
Touchett, who as a general thing neither invited nor enjoyed
caresses, submitted for a moment to this one, rising, as might
be, to take it. But she was stiff and dry-eyed; her acute white
face was terrible.
"Dear Aunt Lydia," Isabel murmured.
"Go and thank God you've no child," said Mrs. Touchett,
Three days after this a considerable number of people found time,
at the height of the London "season," to take a morning train
down to a quiet station in Berkshire and spend half an hour in a
small grey church which stood within an easy walk. It was in the
green burial-place of this edifice that Mrs. Touchett consigned
her son to earth. She stood herself at the edge of the grave, and
Isabel stood beside her; the sexton himself had not a more
practical interest in the scene than Mrs. Touchett. It was a
solemn occasion, but neither a harsh nor a heavy one; there was a
certain geniality in the appearance of things. The weather had
changed to fair; the day, one of the last of the treacherous
May-time, was warm and windless, and the air had the brightness
of the hawthorn and the blackbird. If it was sad to think of poor
Touchett, it was not too sad, since death, for him, had had no
violence. He had been dying so long; he was so ready; everything
had been so expected and prepared. There were tears in Isabel's
eyes, but they were not tears that blinded. She looked through
them at the beauty of the day, the splendour of nature, the
sweetness of the old English churchyard, the bowed heads of good
friends. Lord Warburton was there, and a group of gentlemen all
unknown to her, several of whom, as she afterwards learned, were
connected with the bank; and there were others whom she knew.
Miss Stackpole was among the first, with honest Mr. Bantling
beside her; and Caspar Goodwood, lifting his head higher than the
rest--bowing it rather less. During much of the time Isabel was
conscious of Mr. Goodwood's gaze; he looked at her somewhat
harder than he usually looked in public, while the others had
fixed their eyes upon the churchyard turf. But she never let him
see that she saw him; she thought of him only to wonder that he
was still in England. She found she had taken for granted that
after accompanying Ralph to Gardencourt he had gone away; she
remembered how little it was a country that pleased him. He was
there, however, very distinctly there; and something in his
attitude seemed to say that he was there with a complex intention.
She wouldn't meet his eyes, though there was doubtless sympathy
in them; he made her rather uneasy. With the dispersal of the
little group he disappeared, and the only person who came to
speak to her--though several spoke to Mrs. Touchett--was
Henrietta Stackpole. Henrietta had been crying.
Ralph had said to Isabel that he hoped she would remain at
Gardencourt, and she made no immediate motion to leave the place.
She said to herself that it was but common charity to stay a
little with her aunt. It was fortunate she had so good a formula;
otherwise she might have been greatly in want of one. Her errand
was over; she had done what she had left her husband to do. She
had a husband in a foreign city, counting the hours of her
absence; in such a case one needed an excellent motive. He was
not one of the best husbands, but that didn't alter the case.
Certain obligations were involved in the very fact of marriage,
and were quite independent of the quantity of enjoyment extracted
from it. Isabel thought of her husband as little as might be; but
now that she was at a distance, beyond its spell, she thought
with a kind of spiritual shudder of Rome. There was a penetrating
chill in the image, and she drew back into the deepest shade of
Gardencourt. She lived from day to day, postponing, closing her
eyes, trying not to think. She knew she must decide, but she
decided nothing; her coming itself had not been a decision. On
that occasion she had simply started. Osmond gave no sound and
now evidently would give none; he would leave it all to her. From
Pansy she heard nothing, but that was very simple: her father had
told her not to write.
Mrs. Touchett accepted Isabel's company, but offered her no
assistance; she appeared to be absorbed in considering, without
enthusiasm but with perfect lucidity, the new conveniences of her
own situation. Mrs. Touchett was not an optimist, but even from
painful occurrences she managed to extract a certain utility.
This consisted in the reflexion that, after all, such things
happened to other people and not to herself. Death was
disagreeable, but in this case it was her son's death, not her
own; she had never flattered herself that her own would be
disagreeable to any one but Mrs. Touchett. She was better off
than poor Ralph, who had left all the commodities of life behind
him, and indeed all the security; since the worst of dying was,
to Mrs. Touchett's mind, that it exposed one to be taken
advantage of. For herself she was on the spot; there was nothing
so good as that. She made known to Isabel very punctually--it was
the evening her son was buried--several of Ralph's testamentary
arrangements. He had told her everything, had consulted her about
everything. He left her no money; of course she had no need of
money. He left her the furniture of Gardencourt, exclusive of the
pictures and books and the use of the place for a year; after
which it was to be sold. The money produced by the sale was to
constitute an endowment for a hospital for poor persons suffering
from the malady of which he died; and of this portion of the will
Lord Warburton was appointed executor. The rest of his property,
which was to be withdrawn from the bank, was disposed of in
various bequests, several of them to those cousins in Vermont to
whom his father had already been so bountiful. Then there were a
number of small legacies.
"Some of them are extremely peculiar," said Mrs. Touchett; "he
has left considerable sums to persons I never heard of. He gave
me a list, and I asked then who some of them were, and he told me
they were people who at various times had seemed to like him.
Apparently he thought you didn't like him, for he hasn't left you
a penny. It was his opinion that you had been handsomely treated
by his father, which I'm bound to say I think you were--though I
don't mean that I ever heard him complain of it. The pictures are
to be dispersed; he has distributed them about, one by one, as
little keepsakes. The most valuable of the collection goes to
Lord Warburton. And what do you think he has done with his
library? It sounds like a practical joke. He has left it to your
friend Miss Stackpole--'in recognition of her services to
literature.' Does he mean her following him up from Rome? Was
that a service to literature? It contains a great many rare and
valuable books, and as she can't carry it about the world in her
trunk he recommends her to sell it at auction. She will sell it
of course at Christie's, and with the proceeds she'll set up a
newspaper. Will that be a service to literature?"
This question Isabel forbore to answer, as it exceeded the little
interrogatory to which she had deemed it necessary to submit on
her arrival. Besides, she had never been less interested in
literature than to-day, as she found when she occasionally took
down from the shelf one of the rare and valuable volumes of which
Mrs. Touchett had spoken. She was quite unable to read; her
attention had never been so little at her command. One afternoon,
in the library, about a week after the ceremony in the
churchyard, she was trying to fix it for an hour; but her eyes
often wandered from the book in her hand to the open window,
which looked down the long avenue. It was in this way that she
saw a modest vehicle approach the door and perceived Lord
Warburton sitting, in rather an uncomfortable attitude, in a
corner of it. He had always had a high standard of courtesy, and
it was therefore not remarkable, under the circumstances, that he
should have taken the trouble to come down from London to call on
Mrs. Touchett. It was of course Mrs. Touchett he had come to see,
and not Mrs. Osmond; and to prove to herself the validity of this
thesis Isabel presently stepped out of the house and wandered
away into the park. Since her arrival at Gardencourt she had been
but little out of doors, the weather being unfavourable for
visiting the grounds. This evening, however, was fine, and at
first it struck her as a happy thought to have come out. The
theory I have just mentioned was plausible enough, but it brought
her little rest, and if you had seen her pacing about you would
have said she had a bad conscience. She was not pacified when at
the end of a quarter of an hour, finding herself in view of the
house, she saw Mrs. Touchett emerge from the portico accompanied
by her visitor. Her aunt had evidently proposed to Lord Warburton
that they should come in search of her. She was in no humour for
visitors and, if she had had a chance, would have drawn back
behind one of the great trees. But she saw she had been seen and
that nothing was left her but to advance. As the lawn at
Gardencourt was a vast expanse this took some time; during which
she observed that, as he walked beside his hostess, Lord
Warburton kept his hands rather stiffly behind him and his eyes
upon the ground. Both persons apparently were silent; but Mrs.
Touchett's thin little glance, as she directed it toward Isabel,
had even at a distance an expression. It seemed to say with
cutting sharpness: "Here's the eminently amenable nobleman you
might have married!" When Lord Warburton lifted his own eyes,
however, that was not what they said. They only said "This is
rather awkward, you know, and I depend upon you to help me." He
was very grave, very proper and, for the first time since Isabel
had known him, greeted her without a smile. Even in his days of
distress he had always begun with a smile. He looked extremely
"Lord Warburton has been so good as to come out to see me," said
Mrs. Touchett. "He tells me he didn't know you were still here. I
know he's an old friend of yours, and as I was told you were not
in the house I brought him out to see for himself."
"Oh, I saw there was a good train at 6.40, that would get me back
in time for dinner," Mrs. Touchett's companion rather
irrelevantly explained. "I'm so glad to find you've not gone."
"I'm not here for long, you know," Isabel said with a certain
"I suppose not; but I hope it's for some weeks. You came to
England sooner than--a--than you thought?"
"Yes, I came very suddenly."
Mrs. Touchett turned away as if she were looking at the condition
of the grounds, which indeed was not what it should be, while
Lord Warburton hesitated a little. Isabel fancied he had been on
the point of asking about her husband--rather confusedly--and
then had checked himself. He continued immitigably grave,
either because he thought it becoming in a place over which death
had just passed, or for more personal reasons. If he was
conscious of personal reasons it was very fortunate that he had
the cover of the former motive; he could make the most of that.
Isabel thought of all this. It was not that his face was sad, for
that was another matter; but it was strangely inexpressive.
"My sisters would have been so glad to come if they had known you
were still here--if they had thought you would see them," Lord
Warburton went on. "Do kindly let them see you before you leave
"It would give me great pleasure; I have such a friendly
recollection of them."
"I don't know whether you would come to Lockleigh for a day or
two? You know there's always that old promise." And his lordship
coloured a little as he made this suggestion, which gave his face
a somewhat more familiar air. "Perhaps I'm not right in saying
that just now; of course you're not thinking of visiting. But I
meant what would hardly be a visit. My sisters are to be at
Lockleigh at Whitsuntide for five days; and if you could come
then--as you say you're not to be very long in England--I would
see that there should be literally no one else."
Isabel wondered if not even the young lady he was to marry would
be there with her mamma; but she did not express this idea.
"Thank you extremely," she contented herself with saying; "I'm
afraid I hardly know about Whitsuntide."
"But I have your promise--haven't I?--for some other time."
There was an interrogation in this; but Isabel let it pass. She
looked at her interlocutor a moment, and the result of her
observation was that--as had happened before--she felt sorry for
him. "Take care you don't miss your train," she said. And then
she added: "I wish you every happiness."
He blushed again, more than before, and he looked at his watch.
"Ah yes, 6.40; I haven't much time, but I've a fly at the door.
Thank you very much." It was not apparent whether the thanks
applied to her having reminded him of his train or to the more
sentimental remark. "Good-bye, Mrs. Osmond; good-bye." He shook
hands with her, without meeting her eyes, and then he turned to
Mrs. Touchett, who had wandered back to them. With her his
parting was equally brief; and in a moment the two ladies saw him
move with long steps across the lawn.
"Are you very sure he's to be married?" Isabel asked of her aunt.
"I can't be surer than he; but he seems sure. I congratulated
him, and he accepted it."
"Ah," said Isabel, "I give it up!"--while her aunt returned to
the house and to those avocations which the visitor had
She gave it up, but she still thought of it--thought of it while
she strolled again under the great oaks whose shadows were long
upon the acres of turf. At the end of a few minutes she found
herself near a rustic bench, which, a moment after she had looked
at it, struck her as an object recognised. It was not simply that
she had seen it before, nor even that she had sat upon it; it was
that on this spot something important had happened to her--that
the place had an air of association. Then she remembered that she
had been sitting there, six years before, when a servant brought
her from the house the letter in which Caspar Goodwood informed
her that he had followed her to Europe; and that when she had
read the letter she looked up to hear Lord Warburton announcing
that he should like to marry her. It was indeed an historical, an
interesting, bench; she stood and looked at it as if it might
have something to say to her. She wouldn't sit down on it now--
she felt rather afraid of it. She only stood before it, and while
she stood the past came back to her in one of those rushing waves
of emotion by which persons of sensibility are visited at odd
hours. The effect of this agitation was a sudden sense of being
very tired, under the influence of which she overcame her
scruples and sank into the rustic seat. I have said that she was
restless and unable to occupy herself; and whether or no, if you
had seen her there, you would have admired the justice of the
former epithet, you would at least have allowed that at this
moment she was the image of a victim of idleness. Her attitude
had a singular absence of purpose; her hands, hanging at her
sides, lost themselves in the folds of her black dress; her eyes
gazed vaguely before her. There was nothing to recall her to the
house; the two ladies, in their seclusion, dined early and had
tea at an indefinite hour. How long she had sat in this position
she could not have told you; but the twilight had grown thick
when she became aware that she was not alone. She quickly
straightened herself, glancing about, and then saw what had
become of her solitude. She was sharing it with Caspar Goodwood,
who stood looking at her, a few yards off, and whose footfall on
the unresonant turf, as he came near, she had not heard. It
occurred to her in the midst of this that it was just so Lord
Warburton had surprised her of old.
She instantly rose, and as soon as Goodwood saw he was seen he
started forward. She had had time only to rise when, with a
motion that looked like violence, but felt like--she knew not
what, he grasped her by the wrist and made her sink again into
the seat. She closed her eyes; he had not hurt her; it was only a
touch, which she had obeyed. But there was something in his face
that she wished not to see. That was the way he had looked at her
the other day in the churchyard; only at present it was worse. He
said nothing at first; she only felt him close to her--beside her
on the bench and pressingly turned to her. It almost seemed to
her that no one had ever been so close to her as that. All this,
however, took but an instant, at the end of which she had
disengaged her wrist, turning her eyes upon her visitant. "You've
frightened me," she said.
"I didn't mean to," he answered, "but if I did a little, no
matter. I came from London a while ago by the train, but I
couldn't come here directly. There was a man at the station who
got ahead of me. He took a fly that was there, and I heard him
give the order to drive here. I don't know who he was, but I
didn't want to come with him; I wanted to see you alone. So I've
been waiting and walking about. I've walked all over, and I was
just coming to the house when I saw you here. There was a keeper,
or someone, who met me; but that was all right, because I had
made his acquaintance when I came here with your cousin. Is that
gentleman gone? Are you really alone? I want to speak to you."
Goodwood spoke very fast; he was as excited as when they had
parted in Rome. Isabel had hoped that condition would subside;
and she shrank into herself as she perceived that, on the
contrary, he had only let out sail. She had a new sensation; he
had never produced it before; it was a feeling of danger. There
was indeed something really formidable in his resolution. She
gazed straight before her; he, with a hand on each knee, leaned
forward, looking deeply into her face. The twilight seemed to
darken round them. "I want to speak to you," he repeated; "I've
something particular to say. I don't want to trouble you--as I
did the other day in Rome. That was of no use; it only distressed
you. I couldn't help it; I knew I was wrong. But I'm not wrong
now; please don't think I am," he went on with his hard, deep
voice melting a moment into entreaty. "I came here to-day for a
purpose. It's very different. It was vain for me to speak to you
then; but now I can help you."
She couldn't have told you whether it was because she was afraid,
or because such a voice in the darkness seemed of necessity a
boon; but she listened to him as she had never listened before;
his words dropped deep into her soul. They produced a sort of
stillness in all her being; and it was with an effort, in a
moment, that she answered him. "How can you help me?" she asked
in a low tone, as if she were taking what he had said seriously
enough to make the enquiry in confidence.
"By inducing you to trust me. Now I know--to-day I know. Do you
remember what I asked you in Rome? Then I was quite in the dark.
But to-day I know on good authority; everything's clear to me
to-day. It was a good thing when you made me come away with your
cousin. He was a good man, a fine man, one of the best; he told
me how the case stands for you. He explained everything; he
guessed my sentiments. He was a member of your family and he left
you--so long as you should be in England--to my care," said
Goodwood as if he were making a great point. "Do you know what he
said to me the last time I saw him--as he lay there where he
died? He said: 'Do everything you can for her; do everything
she'll let you.'"
Isabel suddenly got up. "You had no business to talk about me!"
"Why not--why not, when we talked in that way?" he demanded,
following her fast. "And he was dying--when a man's dying it's
different." She checked the movement she had made to leave him;
she was listening more than ever; it was true that he was not the
same as that last time. That had been aimless, fruitless passion,
but at present he had an idea, which she scented in all her
being. "But it doesn't matter!" he exclaimed, pressing her still
harder, though now without touching a hem of her garment. "If
Touchett had never opened his mouth I should have known all the
same. I had only to look at you at your cousin's funeral to see
what's the matter with you. You can't deceive me any more; for
God's sake be honest with a man who's so honest with you. You're
the most unhappy of women, and your husband's the deadliest of
She turned on him as if he had struck her. "Are you mad?" she
"I've never been so sane; I see the whole thing. Don't think it's
necessary to defend him. But I won't say another word against
him; I'll speak only of you," Goodwood added quickly. "How can
you pretend you're not heart-broken? You don't know what to do--
you don't know where to turn. It's too late to play a part;
didn't you leave all that behind you in Rome? Touchett knew all
about it, and I knew it too--what it would cost you to come here.
It will have cost you your life? Say it will"--and he flared
almost into anger: "give me one word of truth! When I know such a
horror as that, how can I keep myself from wishing to save you?
What would you think of me if I should stand still and see you go
back to your reward? 'It's awful, what she'll have to pay for
it!'--that's what Touchett said to me. I may tell you that,
mayn't I? He was such a near relation!" cried Goodwood, making
his queer grim point again. "I'd sooner have been shot than let
another man say those things to me; but he was different; he
seemed to me to have the right. It was after he got home--when he
saw he was dying, and when I saw it too. I understand all about
it: you're afraid to go back. You're perfectly alone; you don't
know where to turn. You can't turn anywhere; you know that
perfectly. Now it is therefore that I want you to think of ME."
"To think of 'you'?" Isabel said, standing before him in the
dusk. The idea of which she had caught a glimpse a few moments
before now loomed large. She threw back her head a little; she
stared at it as if it had been a comet in the sky.
"You don't know where to turn. Turn straight to me. I want to
persuade you to trust me," Goodwood repeated. And then he paused
with his shining eyes. "Why should you go back--why should you go
through that ghastly form?"
"To get away from you!" she answered. But this expressed only a
little of what she felt. The rest was that she had never been
loved before. She had believed it, but this was different; this
was the hot wind of the desert, at the approach of which the
others dropped dead, like mere sweet airs of the garden. It
wrapped her about; it lifted her off her feet, while the very
taste of it, as of something potent, acrid and strange, forced
open her set teeth.
At first, in rejoinder to what she had said, it seemed to her
that he would break out into greater violence. But after an
instant he was perfectly quiet; he wished to prove he was sane,
that he had reasoned it all out. "I want to prevent that, and I
think I may, if you'll only for once listen to me. It's too
monstrous of you to think of sinking back into that misery, of
going to open your mouth to that poisoned air. It's you that are
out of your mind. Trust me as if I had the care of you. Why
shouldn't we be happy--when it's here before us, when it's so
easy? I'm yours for ever--for ever and ever. Here I stand; I'm as
firm as a rock. What have you to care about? You've no children;
that perhaps would be an obstacle. As it is you've nothing to
consider. You must save what you can of your life; you mustn't
lose it all simply because you've lost a part. It would be an
insult to you to assume that you care for the look of the thing,
for what people will say, for the bottomless idiocy of the world.
We've nothing to do with all that; we're quite out of it; we look
at things as they are. You took the great step in coming away;
the next is nothing; it's the natural one. I swear, as I stand
here, that a woman deliberately made to suffer is justified in
anything in life--in going down into the streets if that will
help her! I know how you suffer, and that's why I'm here. We can
do absolutely as we please; to whom under the sun do we owe
anything? What is it that holds us, what is it that has the
smallest right to interfere in such a question as this? Such a
question is between ourselves--and to say that is to settle it!
Were we born to rot in our misery--were we born to be afraid? I
never knew YOU afraid! If you'll only trust me, how little you
will be disappointed! The world's all before us--and the world's
very big. I know something about that."
Isabel gave a long murmur, like a creature in pain; it was as if
he were pressing something that hurt her.
"The world's very small," she said at random; she had an immense
desire to appear to resist. She said it at random, to hear
herself say something; but it was not what she meant. The world,
in truth, had never seemed so large; it seemed to open out, all
round her, to take the form of a mighty sea, where she floated in
fathomless waters. She had wanted help, and here was help; it had
come in a rushing torrent. I know not whether she believed
everything he said; but she believed just then that to let him
take her in his arms would be the next best thing to her dying.
This belief, for a moment, was a kind of rapture, in which she
felt herself sink and sink. In the movement she seemed to beat
with her feet, in order to catch herself, to feel something to
"Ah, be mine as I'm yours!" she heard her companion cry. He had
suddenly given up argument, and his voice seemed to come, harsh
and terrible, through a confusion of vaguer sounds.
This however, of course, was but a subjective fact, as the
metaphysicians say; the confusion, the noise of waters, all the
rest of it, were in her own swimming head. In an instant she
became aware of this. "Do me the greatest kindness of all," she
panted. "I beseech you to go away!"
"Ah, don't say that. Don't kill me!" he cried.
She clasped her hands; her eyes were streaming with tears. "As
you love me, as you pity me, leave me alone!"
He glared at her a moment through the dusk, and the next instant
she felt his arms about her and his lips on her own lips. His
kiss was like white lightning, a flash that spread, and spread
again, and stayed; and it was extraordinarily as if, while she
took it, she felt each thing in his hard manhood that had least
pleased her, each aggressive fact of his face, his figure, his
presence, justified of its intense identity and made one with
this act of possession. So had she heard of those wrecked and
under water following a train of images before they sink. But
when darkness returned she was free. She never looked about her;
she only darted from the spot. There were lights in the windows
of the house; they shone far across the lawn. In an
extraordinarily short time--for the distance was considerable--
she had moved through the darkness (for she saw nothing) and
reached the door. Here only she paused. She looked all about her;
she listened a little; then she put her hand on the latch. She
had not known where to turn; but she knew now. There was a very
Two days afterwards Caspar Goodwood knocked at the door of the
house in Wimpole Street in which Henrietta Stackpole occupied
furnished lodgings. He had hardly removed his hand from the
knocker when the door was opened and Miss Stackpole herself stood
before him. She had on her hat and jacket; she was on the point
of going out. "Oh, good-morning," he said, "I was in hopes I
should find Mrs. Osmond."
Henrietta kept him waiting a moment for her reply; but there was
a good deal of expression about Miss Stackpole even when she was
silent. "Pray what led you to suppose she was here?"
"I went down to Gardencourt this morning, and the servant told me
she had come to London. He believed she was to come to you."
Again Miss Stackpole held him--with an intention of perfect
kindness--in suspense. "She came here yesterday, and spent the
night. But this morning she started for Rome."
Caspar Goodwood was not looking at her; his eyes were fastened on
the doorstep. "Oh, she started--?" he stammered. And without
finishing his phrase or looking up he stiffly averted himself.
But he couldn't otherwise move.
Henrietta had come out, closing the door behind her, and now she
put out her hand and grasped his arm. "Look here, Mr. Goodwood,"
she said; "just you wait!"
On which he looked up at her--but only to guess, from her face,
with a revulsion, that she simply meant he was young. She stood
shining at him with that cheap comfort, and it added, on the spot,
thirty years to his life. She walked him away with her, however,
as if she had given him now the key to patience.